Thursday, January 17, 2013

Romans 7 Is NOT About Christians! Part Deux

by Stephen Altrogge

Yesterday I had the chutzpah (I love that word) to claim that Romans 7:7-25 was not about Christians. I ruffled a few feathers and bloodied a few theological noses, but overall everyone, including those who disagreed with me, was gracious and kind. Today I’ll give you a second reason why I think Romans 7:7-25 isn’t about Christians. As usual, please keep the comments civil, don’t make any references to Hitler, and please don’t use the words “logical fallacy”. Thank you.

The second reason I believe that Romans 7:7-25 is not about Christians is the content of chapters 6 and 8. If Romans 7 is about the Christian, then Paul must have had a serious mental meltdown (I wanted to say “brain fart”, but come on, that’s immature) while he was writing the chapter.

In Romans 6 Paul is celebrating the fact that we have died with Christ and been set free from the power of sin. In verse 14 he says these incredibly encouraging words:
For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.
Sin will have no dominion over me! Why? Because I’m not under the law any more. I’ve died to the law of Moses. The law of Moses did not give me power to obey God’s commands, it only informed me of God’s commands. But I’m not under the law any more, I’m under grace, and God’s grace is pulsing with power. God’s grace at work within me ensures that sin will have no dominion over me.

Then, in Romans 7:6, Paul says:
But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code.
I am released from the law and I now serve in the new way of the Holy Spirit. The old written code (The Law of Moses) could not empower obedience, but the Holy Spirit does empower obedience. I’m released from the old code and I serve in the new way of the Spirit. Yes Paul, yes, I’m with you. I’m free, just like you!

Then the strangeness begins. In verse 7 Paul begins writing as one who IS under the law. He comes face to face with the Mosaic command “You shall not covet” and he suddenly finds himself unable to stop coveting. It’s like coveting takes over his life! He has the desire to do what’s right but he can’t carry it out (vs. 19). The commandment which was good actually ended up killing him (vs. 10)

In verse 25 he says:
So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.
In other words, he desires to obey the law of God in his mind, but is simply unable to do it. He does not have the power to do what the law commands. He is “captive to the law of sin [note that phrase] that dwells in his members”. That sounds like the experience of a religious Jewish man seeking to obey God’s law, yet unable to do what he desires.

Then, in Romans 8:2-3, Paul says these wonderful words:
For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin [have you seen this phrase before?] and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do.
Wonderful, sweet, life-giving words! The law of the Spirit of life has set us from the law of sin that Paul mentioned in Romans 7. The law of sin, which captivated us, has been overpowered by the law of the Spirit. Through the Holy Spirit God has done what the law could not do: given us both the desire and the power to obey. We don’t serve the law of sin anymore, we serve with new life in the Spirit.

So why does Paul write Romans 7 in the present tense? Stay tuned…same Bat time, same Bat channel.